Bertrand Denzler started to compose/conceive different kind of pieces in the eighties, usually playing them with the ensembles he was part of.
Between 1993 and 2011 he has composed and produced music for Swiss filmmaker Christoph Kühn as well as for some video productions.
In the last years, he has mainly composed new music for ensembles and musicians such as Ensemble ReRe, CoÔ (Cordes de l’Onceim), Bondi-Denzler-D’Incise, Šalter Ensemble, CCP3, Félicie Bazelaire, Ensemble Hodos, Onceim and Horns, as well as for jazz groups like the Umlaut Big Band.
«Fluctuations» for Ensemble ReRe (2018)
«Arc» for CoÔ (2017)
«Périodes» for Bondi-Denzler-D'Incise (2017)
«Mix» for Umlaut Big Band (2017)
«Ubiquité» for Šalter Ensemble (2017)
«Ghost Rhythms» for Antonin Gerbal (2017)
«Combinatoire» for Pierre-Antoine Badaroux (2017)
«Topographie» for CCP3 (2017)
«Low Strings» for double bass quartet (2016)
«Basse Seule» for Félicie Bazelaire (2016)*
«Stage Band» for Umlaut Big Band (2016)
«Rouages 1 + 2» for Ensemble Hodos (2015)
«Morph» for ONCEIM (2014)
«Etudes et Exercices pour ensemble» for Ensemble Hodos (2014)
«Horns 1.1 - 2.1» for Horns (2013-2015)
«Frottements» tape music (2011)**
* With a support by Fondation Henneberger-Mercier, Fondation Nicati-De Luze, Fondation Suisa and City of Lausanne
** Commissioned by ASM/STV
Most of these pieces have been played live and/or recorded.
Félicie Bazelaire has performed «Basse Seule» alongside compositions by Patricia Bosshard and D’Incise in Cologne, Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Warsaw, Torùn, Halle, Dresden, Berlin, Paris and Lausanne.
B. Denzler, Badaroux-Denzler-Gerbal – «Topographie/Ghost Polyphonies» – Remote Resonator (2018)
B. Denzler, F. Bazelaire – «Basse Seule» – Confront (2018)
B. Denzler, Ensemble Hodos – «Rouages 2» – Remote Resonator (2017)
B. Denzler, Horns+ – «Horns+» – Remote Resonator (2017)
B. Denzler, Umlaut Big Band – «Badaroux, Gerbal, Denzler, Borel» – Remote Resonator (2016)
B. Denzler, Horns – «Horns 2.1» – Remote Resonator (2016)
B. Denzler, Onceim – «Morph» – Confront (2015)
B. Denzler, Horns – «Horns 1.2» – Confront (2015)
In 2003, Bertrand Denzler and Jean-Luc Guionnet also produced a «field recording with actions», which was broadcasted in the show Framework (Patrick McGinley) on Resonance FM and published on the compilation «Framework 2003».
MUSIC FOR FILM AND THEATRE (selection)
«Friedrich Glauser – The End» by Christoph Kühn (2011)
«Bruno Manser – Laki Penan» by Christoph Kühn (2007)
«Densités – Phalènes» by Clotilde Aksin (w/ Hubbub, 2007)
«Nicolas Bouvier – 22 Hospital Street» by Christoph Kühn (2005)
«Alfred Ilg – L’Abyssin blanc» (consultant) by Christoph Kühn (2003)
«Images de la vie quotidienne» by Christoph Kühn (1994)
«Sophie Taeuber-Arp» by Christoph Kühn (1993)
«Er Moretto» by Simon Bischoff (1983)
«Teatro Dell’Essere» (Rome, 1983)
Jingles for French radio France Musique (2004-2013)
Music for numerous video productions (since 1985)
Dozens of pieces for jazz groups (since 1985)
There are nine tracks, seven of them "études" (numbered 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 3 and 17) plus two works titles "3D4" and "3D1". The first five are all played arco and all occupy the nether depths of the bass. I'm not quite sure if the technical term is correct, but I'm thinking "wolf tones". Whatever, the sound is amazing. Even as the territory covered is similar, there's an enormous amount of variation and sheer gorgeousness in the sonorities. Long, low growls, endlessly rich and complex; I could wallow here forever. If you were knocked out, live or on recording, by Charles Curtis performing Éliane Radigue's 'Naldjorlak I', you need to hear this. The approach is severe, the results anything but. Be warned: your speakers may vibrate off their stands. The sixth track, 'étude 3', is pizzicato, but remains low, Bazelaire slowly, intently, strumming the depths; patient and lovely. Arco returns on the two non-étude works, but the structure and range of the bass is different. The lines are shorter, more overtly rhythmic, and the pitch range is greater, resulting in works that are perhaps more in the ballpark of solo music one may have heard in modern conservatories over recent decades, but with a roughness and rigor that remains rare. "3D1" and 'étude 17' depart even more from the previous pieces, both in the amount of open space and in the higher pitches negotiated (arco). The final work wanders into a dreamy and fine area, an almost sing-songy back and forth, very plaintive and, again, not without grit and grain. A truly exceptional release, very refreshing and imaginative.
– Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
In these pieces the dark, heavy sound of the bass is the central thing and it's played with a bow and Bazelaire produces some very slow, slightly menacing tones. Seven of the nine pieces are called 'Etude', which may account for the somehow similar approach there, of slow strumming and minimalist changes. It's not until the sixth piece, 'Etude #3', that the bass is not strummed but plucked. The two pieces that are not called 'Etude' essentially don't sound that much different really, so it sounds in the end very coherent and together. This is quite a fine dark release of modern compositions for a solo instrument.
– Frans de Ward, Vital Weekly
Tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler’s composition for Paris’ ONCEIM ensemble is a hypnotic, structured drone that transforms the entire group into a solid mass of tremulous polyphony.
– Ken Waxman, The Whole Note
If the locale weren’t already a church, Morph suggests one coming into being, a cathedral of sound in which individual instruments’ sonic identities again drop away, now in the construction of walls of teeming sound, much as they do in Terry Riley’s In C (or in the parallel contemporary work of the Swiss Insub Meta Orchestra’s, Archive #2 [insub.org/orchestra]), but they’re walls teeming with detail, vibrating with their own life and consciousness coming into being.
– Stuart Broomer, Point Of Departure
"Morph", the piece played by ONCEIM, is one large, wooly mass. It doesn't float, it sits there and seethes. The sensation one gets is of a single, unvarying entity but, like most such creatures, it's comprised of multiple strands. Long held notes, generally low in pitch and fairly loud are the rule, instruments entering and exiting the pulsating sound-organism, perhaps just slightly varying their tone. A spine of low percussion (soft mallets) and throbbing feedback underlie the skein of strings and horns atop. Work like Feldman's "For Samuel Beckett" are a likely reference point, but Denzler's piece is darker, even cynical, honing in on some unseen node, gouging out the space like some huge, sonic drill. It proceeds unabated until it's finished, vanishing suddenly, leaving an empty hole. Impressive work.
– Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
The way Morph is structured is probably achieved more by written prose instructions than by scored notes on a stave, and the musicians are given specific directions within a very tight musical ring-fence which permits very little free movement. Yet they have to keep the drone moving somehow. It sounds like hard work, doesn’t it? ONCEIM not only deliver themselves of that strenuous task, but they also produce a very rewarding low bee-buzz drone for thirty mins, enriched with a complexity of acoustic detail that you could never get through digital means, not even with a million laptops all piled up in a skip (the best place for them, I find).
– Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector
Stellt euch eine Kugel vor, deren Umfang gegen unendlich tendiert. Die Dauer und Stabilität des Haltetons hängt nicht von einzelnen Arm- und Atemzügen ab, eher schon von der eigenen Wahrnehmung, der mitten in diesem Ein-Klang Raum- und Zeitmaß abhanden kommen. Dröhnt das jetzt schneller, oder nur heller? Oder kommt es mir nur so vor, so psychedelisiert und benommen ich längst bin?
– Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy
It’s a remarkably disciplined work in which the four winds work within a narrow pitch range. The instruments lose much of their distinctive character – one is only occasionally struck by the perception “That’s the alto,” or “That’s the trumpet.” This loss of identity arises from the narrow pitch range and the frequent oscillations or beat patterns that develop, so that it seems, in a sense, that the walls and air of the studio are themselves participants in the act. It’s this ambient co-ordination of architecture, instruments and musicians that brings a profound depth to much of Denzler’s music.
– Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure
The result is extremely enjoyable music to get lost in, to contemplate both the individual strands and the overall effect, simultaneously or flickering back and forth. Beautifully played, simply conceived and, as with “morph”, a welcome addition to Denzler’s discography.
– Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Tenor, alto, trombone and trumpet blend and overlap long sustained notes, with each musician making subtle alterations within narrowly defined constraints, in order to keep the music forward.
– Daniel Spicer, The Wire
It cannot be called a drone as it never settles down to a steady state but is in a constant state of flux created by every decision made by each player. Those decisions are not entirely free but are constrained by Denzler’s composition, with the consequence that the four instruments fit together well, combining into a piece that makes fascinating and satisfying listening.
– John Eyles, All About Jazz